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Sixth-form teachers promised pound;10m

Ministers pledge the extra cash to introduce threshold pay. Steve Hook reports.

SIXTH-FORM colleges have been promised pound;10 million to enable them to introduce performance-related pay in full from April 1.

A further pound;15m is expected next year in a move which could put sixth-form college teacher salaries even further ahead of their counterparts in general FE colleges.

The money is the sixth-forms' share of the pound;50m of extra funding for post-16 teaching salaries being made available by the Department for Education and Employment . A further pound;100m is earmarked for 20023.

Sixth-form colleges claim their teachers represent only around 10 per cent of the post-16 workforce but believes the disproportionately high offer reflects the fact that the vast majority of its teachers are qualified.

The Sixth-Form Colleges' Employers' Forum is negotiating to allow teachers to keep their performance threshold entitlement if they transfer to schools and is seeking assurances from the DFEE that the threshold criterion will be compatible between the two sectors.

The money will be enough to cover the pound;2,000 increase for the 4,000 teachers who are expected to be awarded the threshold payment.

The deal, welcomed by the forum, is expected to be announced by lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks in the next few weeks. But it will increase the pay gap with the teachers' less well-off FE colleagues.

"A large number of our members voted for the Labour Government because they thought it would get things done," said Paul Mackney, general secretary of the union NATFHE.

"But the group who are doing the most to tackle social exclusion, those in the tertiary sector,in general FE colleges, are the ones who are getting the least reward for playing their part.

"In many ways, their job is harder. We take students who have often been rejected by schools and by sixth-form colleges and get them to a stage where they go to university.

"If anything, I would say the money for sixth-form colleges is less than I expected. But if they have been able to get a deal which puts them in line with teachers in schools then good luck to them. We now want a deal which does the same for general FE. That is why our members are gearing up to take action in May."

A national pay dispute would add to the tension between the union and those colleges which failed to pay the 3.3 increase, agreed last year.

The Association of Colleges continues to negotiate with the DFEE with three principles in mind - that a deal should "apply equally across all colleges", that there should be "sufficient resources to meet raised expectations on pay" and that a settlement should be acceptable to individual colleges as well as the union.

Squaring the circle between the colleges' desire for autonomy and union demands may prove difficult, as the row over the introduction of the 3.3 per cent increase has shown.

"We believe that all colleges have an equal opportunity to address the standards agenda and that any announcement from Government on the teachers' pay initiative should respect this as a matter of principle," said an association spokeswoman.

"It will then receive our whole-hearted support, will provide an incentive for all colleges to move ahead with this development and show good faith to our staff."

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